Nearly half of individual investors trusted financial services companies less in 2010 than the previous year, according to a new report.

Edelman, Chicago, published this finding in a summary of results from a November telephone survey of 503 individual investors conducted by StrategyOne Inc., New York. Respondents had household incomes of $50,000-plus and at least $10,000 in investable assets.

The poll also analyzed an “entry-level affluent” subgroup of the sample consisting of those with an income of $150,000 or more and investments of $100,000 or more.

The survey found that of the 46% of respondents whose trust levels declined, most (57%) cited financial services companies “acting in a greedy manner.” And 18% maintained that the “industry itself has made the problems worse.”

Among the factors most important to the reputation of a financial services company, surveyed investors ranked “honest communication” (91%) and “open and transparent business practices” (84%) at the top.

Traditional marketing mix tactics – “fair and competitive prices” (75%), “available customer service” (74%) and “website with easy financial transactions” (62%) – ranked lower, as did “consistent product delivery” (75%).

Only 49% of respondents say they trust financial institutions in general. Community or regional banks scored highest in the survey (67%), with mutual fund companies second at 55%. Life insurance companies (42%) and property/casualty insurers (37%) ranked in the middle of the pack but well below the 50% level.

Investment banks (35%) and private equity firms (32%) were least trusted.

–Warren S. Hersch